Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Constitution has No Clothes

Doesn't the very fact that Democrats and Republicans are willing to fight over this Supreme Court appointment prove that our system of gov't is inherently flawed? The very fact that the final arbiter of legality in this country is entirely controlled along partisan lines mean it's entire purpose is moot. What we've got is the legal version of an MC Escher drawing - one hand drawing the other. We've got each branch of gov't, instead of exercising checks and balances, essentially propping up the next, with no real authority vetted anywhere.

Traditionalists will tell you this is why ultimate power is left in the hands of the people - but those same people will generally tell you the Constitution is fine, if people will just follow it. Those aren't necessarily contradictory opinions, but it sure seems that way. The solution, right, is some kind of new constitution, that can be negotiated and agreed upon - but we know, given the polarization of our country, that this is just an impossible task. It could never be done. And even if it could, we'd just need to do it again later (right France?).

We're stuck playing games in a flawed system we know is dysfunctional, but unable to really admit it to ourselves. This is the naked king continuing to parade down main street and ordering the wise young man who claims he's naked into prison.

Ultimately, we're people, which means we're generally poor at managing ourselves, let alone others. Throw in power and fear to the mix and it's amazing we lasted this long before royally messing everything up. Somehow we managed to keep FDR from doubling the size of the Court to get his ideas passed and perhaps Kansas can keep religious oligarch, Sam Brownback, from naming his own court in the same way. There is some hope that this crisis will not be the one that brings the whole edifice crumbling to the ground (I don't typically go in for Chicken Little scenarios), but if it's not this, it'll be something else, right. I mean we have to, hopefully, maybe, finally admit that our Constitution really isn't some all-encompassing, world saving gift to humanity, right? It's a piece of paper that took a lot of smart people a long time to figure out (on the second try, mind you) that work pretty well for the most part - but it isn't, nor could it ever hope to be, perfect.

This is why the Christian response is, as it always should be, an alternative example. We really shouldn't be worried about trying to make the system work, because "the system" doesn't work. We should be living out the alternative politic handed down by Jesus Christ. A friend of mine recently asked the rhetorical question - What if Jesus is enthroned now and this is the way he governs the world?

I don't think that's wrong. Christ has come. Christ reigns. The Kingdom is here now, but it's one built not on power and might, but on self-giving love, the kind Christ commissioned the Church to carry out in life and practice. This is precisely why I believe no nation can be a Christian nation, because you just can't be both.

It is times like this when it becomes apparent just how little faith we put in our gospel. We're so entirely invested in the systems of the world that we can't rightly believe in Christ's kingdom enough to live in it. I'm not saying we need to withdraw from the political process- not at all - we just need to take it less seriously. An election, even the regular governing of the country, is not the end of the world; it's not a lynchpin of history or even a referendum on the future. Those make great debate quotes, but they contribute to this overwhelming faith placed in flawed institutions.

It's important, sure, but it's not as important as we make it.

It's not unlike your typical homeowner's associate writ large, right? Yes, there are far too many rules, and much of its construction and function make no rational sense, but in the end, you win some and you lose some and you live your life. It might mean you have to cut the grass in a northeasternly diagonal instead of to the south-southeast, and you may have to give in and let Gladys put up that ghastly inflatable snowman, because its in her back yard. It's a nuisance, yes, but the only time it becomes unbearable is when someone takes it too seriously and makes everyone's lives miserable.

The easiest thing to do would just be to let the President pick a nominee and if they're competent to do the job, confirm them, regardless of their interpretive philosophy. That worked for the first 200 years of our country and it would put an end to all this mess. I know the Democrats made a stink when Alito came through, but they did let him through. It was wrong to make a stink then and it's wrong now. It's petty and it's childish and we need to get over it.

I know everyone caught up in our electoral and governance system thinks they're doing really good in the world (or trying to) - I'm willing to grant that kind of gullible optimism - but in reality, life is so much more important. I know I wrote hear a few months ago that as much power as the President has, he could do far more good for the world as an actual community organizer. I really believe that; I think it's true of every politician. Again, I'm not saying we should get rid of them, but we should get over them.

I think this is a good attitude for anyone, but I think it's especially important for Christians. What we say or affirm or swear to has little to do with what we really believe. Our actions bear out our real commitments and it's about time we take seriously the claim that, just maybe, the way of Christ is actually the hope of the world?

I doubt it would end electoral contentiousness, but it would certainly de-escalate the situation if we just all took a step back, a deep breath, and a moment to re-orient ourselves to reality. An election year may be a bad time to suggest such a thing, but it's certainly the time we need it most.

Good day.

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